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Crowley calls his felony arrest ‘childish’

August 8, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

On Monday, Chris Crowley was arrested on felony charges for alleged campaign finance violations.

On Tuesday, the Republican State Attorney 20th Judicial Circuit candidate stood on the steps of the Fort Myers courthouse to blame his opponent, Chief Assistant State Attorney Amira Fox, and current State Attorney Stephen Russell for "dirty politics."

"You don't go after someone for a $670 raffle. That's childish," he said.

Article Photos

Jessica Salmond

Candidate Chris Crowley addressing the public Tuesday on the courthouse steps.

Following an anonymous tip in June, Crowley was investigated for a fundraiser at which he was caught on Facebook Live doing a raffle at the fundraiser. He was subsequently arrested on two third-degree felony counts: promoting a lottery and a campaign finance law violation. The case had been moved from the 20th Judicial Circuit Court to the 10th Judicial Circuit Court.

Despite having worked for the state attorney's office for 15 years, Crowley has stated he didn't know a raffle was against Florida campaign law; he returned the $670 a week after the fundraiser when he learned it was a violation.

He said he spent four hours behind bars Monday, then agreed to a $800 fine and pretrial diversion program. The contract allows a first-time offender to get charges dropped if they complete a program. He must submit a report to an assigned probation officer every month for the next six months.

Crowley said he agreed to the fine and program because it kept the fundraiser organizers from getting prosecuted.

Then, he turned the arrest against his opponent, Fox, and Russell.

Crowley claimed that the investigation into his campaign finance misconduct was a retaliation for a letter he sent to Gov. Rick Scott, requesting the suspension of Russell from his position.

On July 2, Crowley sent a letter to the governor accusing Russell of incompetence and misfeasance for not prosecuting alleged illegal slaughterhouses in Lee County and for not presenting the Ryan Modell case to a Grand Jury. Modell was killed in 2016 and the defendant used the Stand Your Ground law.

Crowley said it was "no coincidence" he was arrested a month after submitting the letter, and said the the case, started by an anonymous tip, "would have been ignored, it was nothing" if Russell had not referred the case to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Russell said his office acted properly and that any claim to the contrary is wrong.

"As State Attorney I am dismayed by the factually incorrect information being bantered about," he said in a prepared statement issued late Tuesday afternoon. "I am sworn as a public officer to uphold the law and as State Attorney I also feel it is important to be sure my staff and this office is not denigrated by anyone."

Submitting the complaint to the state was the proper course of action, Russell said, adding that his office neither investigated nor charged Crowley.

"On June 25, 2018 I referred a complaint submitted to this office in reference to Chris Crowley to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for review. At the same time I contacted the Governor for an executive assignment to another circuit. These steps are not unusual and are a measure I can take as State Attorney so that an independent review can be done. The 10th Judicial Circuit is handling this issue. My office did not investigate and is not prosecuting this case nor have we had involvement with a filing decision."

Fox also said that neither she, nor the office, had any involvement with the investigation or the decision to charge Crowley.

"In order to correct statements made by my opponent Christopher Crowley regarding his arrest for two felonies yesterday, I hereby issue the following statement," she said in a written release.

"This case was investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) who found probable cause for an arrest warrant. An arrest warrant was issued by The State Attorney's Office, 10th Judicial Circuit, who was assigned to handle this case by Governor Rick Scott.

"I, neither as Chief Assistant State Attorney nor as a candidate, have had any involvement in this case."

Crowley also used the press conference to bring up several local hot topics he has made campaign issues, including the alleged illegal slaughterhouses in eastern Lee County; the killing of Ryan Modell in 2017 that was upheld by the Stand Your Ground law; and the shooting of Fort Myers Police Officer Adam Jobbers-Miller. According to police, Jobbers-Miller was shot by Wisner Desmaret - a name Crowley said he "can't pronounce," - after having multiple felony cases dropped.

"When a prosecutor is more concerned with a $670 raffle, but not concerned with animal cruelty, catching the killer of Ryan Modell, not concerned with a cop killer roaming the streets, that's corruption," he said.

Russell had some comments of his own regarding concern shown in death of Officer Jobbers-Miller

"I am incensed to find out that Mr. Crowley through his attorney chose to turn himself into authorities at the exact day and time of a funeral starting for a fallen officer," Russell said. "He owes the family of the officer an apology."

Crowley said he has now submitted a letter to FDLE Agent Shane Pollard to investigate the State Attorney's Office for promoting gambling through events like Fantasy Football.

Despite the arrest, Crowley doesn't think it will hurt his reputation with voters.

"I'm getting more support," he said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comment from Chief Assistant State Attorney and candidate Amira Fox.

 
 

 

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